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Title: England, Arise! Socialism Against Civilization in Victorian Britain
Authors: Deslauriers, Théophile
Advisors: Beitz, Charles R.
Contributors: Politics Department
Keywords: Civilization
Edward Carpenter
Subjects: Political science
Issue Date: 2023
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation is about the use of the concept of civilization in Victorian democratic theory. Though a great deal has been written about civilization in Victorian imperialism, almost none of this work has examined its use in the tumultuous debates about representative democracy that were occurring at the same time as Britain was expanding, debating and reshaping its empire. As a result, the concept of civilization has been misunderstood in some important ways, and a core aspect of the development of democratic theory has been neglected by those who study it. When we appreciate the many important ways in which democracy was discussed using the concept of civilization, we can clarify the relationship between democracy and expertise in Victorian Britain, and better understand socialist democratic theory. This work explains how ‘civilization’ came to be used in Britain in much the same way as it was used in the empire, what this means for our understanding of civilization itself, and how this changed democratic theory. The aim is to reinterpret the Victorian debate over democracy and expert rule by showing that the concept of civilization was central to understandings of democracy and expertise. ‘Civilization’ described a society characterized by expert rule focused on administrative capacity, technical and scientific knowledge, and contractual economic relations. Only those with distinguished intellectual and technical merit could participate in such rule. My dissertation reconstructs a wide-ranging debate between the meritocratic liberals John Stuart Mill, James Fitzjames Stephen, Henry Maine and Henry Sidgwick, and an overlooked group of democratic socialists, led by the gay liberationist Edward Carpenter, who objected to the moral, social and institutional implications of meritocracy and expert rule. Surprisingly, both sides of the debate agreed about what it meant for a state to be civilized. Their differences were evaluative: the former group endorsed civilization, the latter sought to criticize and overturn it. Their diverging attitudes towards civilization as an evaluative concept led them to opposite conclusions about the political capacities of the masses and the value of democratic equality.
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:Politics

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